Berwick Rangers 3, East Stirling 0: Berwick picked up their first win of the season in all competitions when they beat East Stirling at Shielfield.
Shire arrived on Tweedside on the back of three successive league defeats, but the fact that they had progressed through to the quarter-finals of the Ramsden’s Cup showed that they couldn’t afford to be underestimated.
Berwick, perhaps not surprisingly, went with a similar line-up to that which did so well to gain a 1-1 home draw against Rangers the previous weekend, although Fraser McLaren and Damien Gielty, who were used as second half substitutes against the Ibrox side, we’re handed starting roles at the expense of Neil Janczyk and Phil Addison.
After their exploits against Rangers - which still had some fans talking a week later - some thought there might be a hangover effect.
If there was, it didn’t show in the early stages, but the longer the game went on the more tired some of the players became.
In the second half in particular, passing became sloppy, and if East Stirling had a striker of note in their ranks they might have started to reel Ian Little’s men in.
For a spell they started to get on top, but as manager John Coughlin admitted afterwards, they had no finishing product and as a result they let Berwick off the hook.
Berwick applied the early pressure with a series of corners, but it was from a free kick that the opening goal came after ten minutes.
Lee Currie played it quickly to Dean Hoskins on the left and the full-back whipped the ball across for striker Darren Lavery to stroke home his first senior goal for the club.
As in the game against Rangers, the defence of Hoskins, Dene Droudge and central pairing Chris Townsley and Dougie Brydon stood firm and subsequently goalkeeper Youseff Bejaoui didn’t have a lot to do in the opening period.
He went full stretch to save well from Nathan Shepherd but in the first 45 he was seldom troubled.
At the other end McLaren pulled a shot wide after 17 minutes and Gielty had a shot saved by Grant Hay.
Mark Begg tried to retaliate with a shot from distance which was always going wide, but when Berwick doubled their lead after 36 minutes it looked as if the visitors were dead and buried.
McLaren was the man who found the net, cleverly lifting the ball over the keeper from inside the box after Kevin McDonald made a good tackle on the right and offloaded the pass.
The majority in the 500-plus crowd probably thought that Berwick would go on and win comfortably in the second half.
But they started to defend deep, the midfield started to lose their way - with the result that Currie was subsequently substituted (much to his annoyance as he kicked the dug-out when he left the pitch).
This gave Shire the signal to press forward with more regularity. They won a couple of free kicks in central positions, but these came to nothing, and it was clear that the lack of a leading striker was to be their downfall as any chances they did create were wasted with shots going high or wide.
The next goal was always going to be crucial, and thankfully for Berwick it came from them, Hoskins putting the seal on the victory when he headed in the third after 79 minutes.
A McDonald corner on the right saw McLaren’s overhead kick cleared off the line by Shepherd, but as the ball fell wide again to McDonald he crossed to the back post where Hoskins was unmarked to guide the ball in from close range.
East Stirling tried a late rally, Bejaoui making a good one-handed tip-over from Ricky Miller, whilst the keeper also pulled off a fine save ‘for the cameras’ going full stretch to grasp a shot from distance.
Overall this was a welcome win for Berwick - their first three-pointer of the season.
As a result there was some relief in the Rangers’ camp, but also a realisation that it probably wasn’t their best performance and the knowledge that improvements in some quarters are needed if they are to mount a challenge throughout what is going to be a long and difficult campaign.
Berwick: Bejaoui 7, Droudge 7, Hoskins 8, Townsley 7, Brydon 8, Currie 6 (Addison 75), Notman 6, Gielty 6, Lavery 6 (Ferguson 75), McLaren 7, McDonald 7 (Jacobs 81).
East Stirling: Hay, Hume (Herd 60), Kelly, Miller, Devlin (Jackson 60), Greenhill, Begg (Donaldson 72), Turner, Shepherd, Maxwell.
Referee: Andrew Dallas